The city of Houston has notified local golfers – specifically those who live in the Inner Loop area – that Memorial Park will close in less than three weeks.
The closure is part of the city’s plan to bring the PGA Tour’s Houston Open back into the city limits. For nearly 40 years, the event has been held in either Missouri City, The Woodlands or Humble.
In an email sent to area golfers on Wednesday, the Memorial Park Conservancy and the Astros Golf Foundation will attend a Jan. 2 meeting of the Houston City Council and request final approval for a $13.5 million renovation of Memorial Park Golf Course. If, and when, the request is granted, the last day of golf will be Jan. 6 and renovations will begin the next day.
The Astros Golf Foundation will tell City Council members that they have, or will raise, the $13.5 million from private funds for the renovation, including a new driving range and new maintenance facility at the course.
By all accounts, the Jan. 2 Houston City Council meeting is just a formality. World-renowned course architect Tom Doak, who has designed courses such as Pacific Dunes in Oregon and Ballyneal in Colorado, has already been hired to renovate the course.
In its email to golfers, the city’s Parks Department answered a number of other questions about the impact of this renovation.
If weather allows the renovation to stay on schedule, the grand opening of the renovated Memorial Park would be held in October 2019. That means the course will be closed for 10 months. One year later, the course will hold its first Houston Open, which is now sponsored by the Astros Golf Foundation.
Many golfers who have enjoyed the relatively low cost (around $40 for 18 holes) of playing at Memorial Park have questioned how steep the green-fee increases will be for playing a Tour-quality course. According to the city, though, the only rate increases will come from a previously decided increase at all city of Houston courses. The city’s indication is that the increase will not be steep. For comparison, the price to play the Golf Club of Houston, where the Houston Open has been played for since 2003, is more than $150 during peak months.
While Memorial Park will not host public golfers until at least October 2019, the city said all other public courses, including Hermann Park, Sharpstown Park, newly renovated Gus Wortham Park and Melrose Park will all remain open.
As for the Memorial renovation, the city’s email said this will ultimately be a treasure for local golfers.
“Golfers [will] benefit by being able to play on a newly renovated golf course designed by a world-renowned golf course architect,” the email said. “The renovated course [will] offer premier turf conditions using new turf grass varieties, new bunker liners, improved course aesthetics and playability and a state-of-the-art irrigation system to capture storm water for course irrigation reuse.”
Don Placek, a senior associate for Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design company, said Doak has never designed a course used for a regular PGA Tour event. Doak has enlisted Brooks Koepka, the top-ranked player in the world, as a design consultant.
“You can imagine we’re really excited about the fact it’s going to happen,” Placek said.
Memorial Park would become only the second municipal course in the country to host an annual PGA Tour event, with the other being Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.
“It’s a huge benefit to the city,” said Giles Kibbe, senior vice president and general counsel for the Astros. “And we’ll have a public golf course that’s hopefully one of the best in the country.”